Friday, December 11, 2015

Jimmy Cornell at the Cruising Association

Jimmy Cornell has had the impact on world cruising for which words like "legend" start being used. His World Cruising Routes is said to have sold 200,000 copies and is on Brian of Delos's Required Reading List.

He set up the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers which I did many years ago (totally fab) and a week ago gave a talk in the Cruising Association about his successful transit of the North-West passage.

However initial impressions were not of a hardened sea salt but a fussy man, complaining that the meal was being served before the talk not, as is usually the case, in the interval. "Its not right" he muttered, as knives and forks clattered on plates. Plus the lights were all wrong as was the microphone. He decided to wait until people had finished eating then began anyhow.

He started by describing his trip to Antarctica and Cape Horn plus his totally dream-worthy Exploration 45 foot aluminium yacht Aventura IV (above, which I so want).

Then it was off from London, heading out under the Tower Bridge which lifted in salute on the 31st of May 2014 for his first attempt at the NW passage. They sailed up to Orkney and headed west, as the southern tip of Greenland has almost the same latitude. Up the west coast then across to Baffin Island, polar bears and the first serious ice.

It turned out to be more than just serious, as 2014 turned out to be a bad year for ice and they had to turn back. Even so they almost got iced in, with Cornell's granddaughter, one of the crew, fearing they'd be stuck there for 10 months.

This year he tried again from west to east, which has the advantage that the ice tends to clear in that order and to cut a long story short was successful, sailing through to the Atlantic and then down to London, to head under Tower Bridge on the 18th of September.

There were some more interesting moments, such as how he admitted he did the cooking as he is fussy (his word this time) about the mess that others cause. He also admitted he'd become a sterner skipper. "Can't afford to be nice all the time" he said, not with ice around.

In the Q&A session one question was particularly interesting: what were his over-wintering plans?

Didn't have any, he said, which puzzled me. If I were heading into the NW passage where ice is unpredictable and risks of wintering, while low, are definitely not zero, I'd have a plan.

But it was a key to his character, namely his confidence in himself and his determination. He'd find something, he was sure: he was prepared to make mistakes but stubborn so able to find a solution. That, coupled with a Romanian fatalism "if its going to happen, it's going to happen".

"Don't always think of consequences, otherwise you'd do nothing" he said.

For a potter round the Solent, maybe, but a trip into the NW passage with your granddaughter?

Maybe the "hmm.." I'm mentally thinking now is why I've never sailed around the world once let alone three times, nor set up several hugely successful yachting rallies, let alone completed a NW passage.

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